MEDINA — With sole possession of the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division lead on the line Thursday night, Brookside’s Jeanine Musall took her game up a notch. But if you ask the senior hitter, she got by with a little help from her friends.
Musall, who finished with 24 kills on 41-of-48 hitting, guided the Cardinals to a 22-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-22 win over host Buckeye. The match featured a showdown between the last two unbeaten PAC teams, and rather than basking in the spotlight, Musall praised her teammates for helping find a soft spot in the Bucks defense.
“I got my kills from my team — good passes and good sets,” she said. “Originally I was supposed to hit the ball the other way, but there was a big hole (on the backside) and my teammates told me where to swing. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Most of her attempts were set up by junior Kady Whitsel and senior Gabby Piwowar, who combined for 46 assists in a 118-of-118 setting performance. Piwowar was a force at the net as well, accounting for 14 kills, while leading the Cardinals in serving with 15 points and three aces. Sophomore Morgan Brinkman paced Brookside with 23 digs.
But getting to their sixth conference win in as many outings wasn’t an easy task for Brookside, as Buckeye, the defending PAC champions, won the first game and gave the Cardinals all they could handle in the other three.
“We just weren’t moving in that first one,” said Brookside coach Ted Whitsel. “It was almost like someone poured quicksand on our side of the court. We started off like gangbusters, ran two or three nice three-ball plays, put the ball down and had a 4-1 lead. But then we missed, just slowed down so badly.
“I warned the girls that they couldn’t let (Buckeye) get momentum, especially on their home court. So I was real proud of them the way they came back.”
The rally started with a hot serving hand from Brinkman and a pair of kills from Piwowar and junior Shelby Kerstetter in the second game. Clinging to a 21-19 lead, the three combined to help secure the game and even the match.
Trailing 21-20 in Game 3, Musall took matters into her own hands. Collecting four kills, three of which went crosscourt to a wide open piece of the Buckeye court, Brookside regained the momentum and the advantage in the match.
“At times tonight we were just out of position on defense, and against a team as good as they are, it’s a tough position to be in,” said Buckeye coach Craig Peterson after watching his team slip to 6-3 overall and 6-1 in the PAC. “They are probably the smartest team we’ve played all year, and a lot of credit goes to their coaches for that. It’s tough to make adjustments on the fly, but to play a good team like that, as close as we did, I’m proud of my team’s effort.”
Game 4 got as close as 19-18, but with the play of Musall and Piwowar up front, along with Kerstetter and junior Gabby Woods, the Cardinals were able to neutralize the Buckeye hitters and head home with the win.
“This game was nerve-wracking,” said Kerstetter, who finished with three blocks. “I didn’t know what to expect from (Buckeye) other than knowing that they were a good team. Coach really got on us for our mistakes, and we realized what we need to change. They’re very tall and have a good defense, but I think we saw what we needed to do and just did our job.”
Buckeye was led by seniors Erin Leneghan (15 kills, 14 points and 14 digs) and Krystin Estes (14 kills, two blocks and 11 digs).
“I keep telling the kids that it’s one game at a time and one point at a time,” Whitsel said. “Knock on wood, things will keep going our way. I do like our position right now, it’s better than having a loss. But there’s still a lot of work to be done, and I think we’re ready.”
Contact John McDermott at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.